Fostering Online Communities

Tara Hunt, of Citizen Agency, asks the question: what makes a community? The characteristics? personal homepage/profile; personal content creation; the ability to interact with others’ content; the ability to befriend and share content. The benefits: heightened customer loyalty; self-policing; amplified by word of mouth; better feedback; stronger and more interesting filters on content.

Three levels of communities: 1. lightweight social processes (low-barrier social involvement like voting and the recording of personal participation);
2. Collaborative information structures (enhanced by social participation); 3. High end end collaboration (groups using systems to make sense and share complex materials)

Common themes:

  • sense of fun and play (the founders very publicly have fun, playful messaging and images on the side)
  • keeping the dialogue going (“eating their own dogfood” – “it’s amazing how many people don’t use their own product”, answering your own customer support emails, greeting new customers and introducing them to others – “being the host of a party”
  • wouldn’t it be awesome if…. (taking an experimental approach to development, throw away the business plan and embrace the chaos, )
  • the power of the word of mouth (built-in a variety of ways ot share early on [rss, copy and paste urls etc], adding more on-ramps (email, SMS etc)
  • involve community in decisions (listen to your users and be flexible, let the community create the content and make the decisions)
  • simple platform to build on (building blocks – tools built be experts but used by non-experts eg. WordPress [users add extensions] Flickr api, focus on one function well
  • Compelling stories
  • rewarding of community members (feature super users, more privileges)

There are four characteristics of successful communities that she identifies:
Feelings of membership (creation of community boundaries, perception of emotional safety) Personal profile pages, allowing for lots of personal and group expression.
Feelings of influence (being able to influence the group, feedback responsiveness, rule enforcement) Include forums, chat, comments etc
Integration and fulfillment of needs (feeling of being supported by others, reward of being and member, such as status, shared values, feeling of competence) Karma points etc
Shared emotional connection (personal investment of time and resources, high quality, frequent interaction) Add face-to-face opportunities
The bottom line: building communities is hard work and can take a long time to build.

Technorati Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *